Walking for mental health is a great place to start when you feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. There’s no equipment and the benefits can’t be beat.
When you’re first starting down the path of trying to take care of yourself just walking out in the fresh air is a wonderful place to start.
Getting out in nature can be very healing.
Walking was one of the first things I begin doing when I started realizing that I needed to take care of myself. I began by challenging myself and telling myself I was going to become a jogger.
This is a joke. And I never made my goal. But that wasn’t the point. It was all about the process.
Once I had a goal it got me out of the house every single day repeatedly for 30 minutes to an hour a day. I exhausted my body, I came home tired yet refreshed. Soon it became more difficult to just sit around the house all day.
How to Get Started Walking for Your Mental Health
Make a Goal
Have a reason to go walking every day or every other day. If you don’t have a “why” you probably won’t stick with it. Possible goals include:
- an upcoming 5K you’ve signed up for
- to run a mile by the end of the summer
- to walk a mile under 10 minutes
- to walk 3 miles a day
Avoid making the goal around weight. The purpose of this is not about your body image. It’s about finding a passion and getting lost in what your body can do.
Download an App to Stay Motivated.
Map My Walk. This is a great one for walkers or runners. They allow you to measure your routes and you can see your speed and calories burned. Map my walk can also generate other ideas for you and show you the route that you took. Use it as another way to set a goal for yourself. You can map a circle, a letter, or even map out someone’s name of how you’re going to walk.
Another great app if you’re not so worried about tracking the style in which you’re walking is Walkmeter iPhone app. This one allows you to train for distance walking as if you’re going to try to walk for a 5K. Even if you’re not training, this is a good app because you can challenge your total walk time, pace, distance or your calories. You can have any kind of internal goal for yourself every single time that you walk.
The idea of this is that you will be naturally rewarded yourself just by walking however for many of us we need to be rewarded during the activity to get us going. At least at the beginning.
- One way I like to do this is to find an awesome book that I’ve been dying to read and put it on my phone and only allow myself to listen to the audiobook while I’m walking.
- I listen to so many audiobooks that I have three apps for audiobooks: Hoopla and Overdrive. Both of these connect to your library so you can check out audiobooks for free. Audible is a paid service but I have found that some of the newer books are available only on Audible. Additionally, I never have any problem with wait times or quality. One additional perk is that if you don’t like the audiobook you can return it for no explanation other than “I don’t like this book”.
- Podcasts are another great way to pass the time while walking.
- And of course, walking with a friend. Just don’t let that friend determine how often you walk.
Psychological Benefits of Walking for Mental Health
If you still need some more motivation to try walking or jogging, check these benefits out.
- Walking releases endorphins. Some doctors have noted it can be just as effective as taking an antidepressant pill and treating depression.
- Being out in nature can be very soothing. Instead of listening to anything while you walk you can also use this time as prayer time or meditation. I had a friend who went on a walk every single day for 40 minutes and she said that this is the time in which she spoke to God every single day. She said if she didn’t go on her walk she didn’t get to talk to God. So she went every day regardless of the weather.
- Walking can help free your mind. Getting outside of the daily rhythm of your demands and just stop thinking is exactly what our minds need sometimes.
- Try walking during your lunch break at work. It’s a great stress reliever, because who doesn’t have a stressful job and it gets you away from the fluorescent lights.
Developing a Walking Plan as a Single Mom
When you’re walking for mental health is something that needs to be done whether you have the kids or not. When I first started my challenge of walking and jogging I would do it on the weekends when I didn’t have my kids. But I quickly realize that waiting every other weekend to go walking was not going to get me anywhere.
I needed to find a way to start bringing my children on my walks and still keep it stress-free.
I found the best way to do this was to take my kids down to a trail that was about three blocks away and let them ride their bikes only so far as I could see them while I walked. Often that meant that I didn’t walk very far, and I walked back-and-forth through the same stretch of sidewalk.
Sometimes I would walk back-and-forth with my kids played on the swing sets.
You may be thinking well that doesn’t sound very relaxing. It doesn’t sound like it will free my mind or help me achieve my goal of jogging.
And while I can tell you that it doesn’t completely have the exact same benefits as it does when you’re walking alone it can be really nice to just get out of the house. Even with your kids in tow. Remember you are in a season. Sometimes it feels like a looooong season. But it’s still a season. Your children need the exercise and outdoors as well.
Depending on the age of your children you may be able to get much further once they start riding their bikes better you may be able to walk quite a ways and still be able to see them up ahead.
The key is to remember that you are a single mom and your children are always or almost always going to be with you.
Challenge yourself to think outside of the box. To think how can you take care of yourself while still entertain the kids.
Passion Project Series
Often as a mom, and especially as a single mom, we lose ourselves. We forget to put ourselves first – ever. Single parents think it’s simply not possible. It is, and it’s necessary for our health. Join the passion project series as we look at different aspects to rediscover what makes our lives full of passion that we’ve lost along the way.